Sunday, December 6, 2015

It's Time to Get Real About Guns.


Time to play the familiar loop ...again:

A shooter unleashes his (and now her) demented angst upon a school, a shopping mall, a workplace.

We're not shocked; that emotion has been slowly phased out of the routine, vaporizing years ago, so we move on to horrified. From that point, our behaviors branch out a bit—some are sad, some are grateful that tragedy hasn't yet knocked on their own doors, and others, others are angry and ready to blame.

We blame the president or NRA, the liberals or conservatives, even the cultural demise of the American family. Rhetoric spins around in a sideways number eight, always moving but never veering off its predictable track.

You may agree with what I'm about to propose. Perhaps you'll dissent yet agree in principle. Or, maybe you'll think I'm just another bleeding heart progressive whose head's been in the sand so long it's formed a cement block around my senses. In fact, it's what I anticipate the reaction will be among my conservative friends and family members.

That's fine, I just wanted to get this down in words, because as macabre and dramatic as it sounds, tomorrow could be the day it happens—maybe at the grocery store, on the bus, at the office or during a high school band concert.

And as scary as the threat of terrorism is, of ideological thugs entering America with bad intentions, that's not my biggest fear. The lion's share of my trepidation is the home-grown variety. Since the Columbine killings ushered us into a new age of indigenously-sparked carnage, 388 Americans have died in mass shootings at the hands of fellow Americans.

I'm not including those paralyzed or disfigured, not those who were murdered in groups of two or even three. According to the New York Times, 388 is the tally of people whose last breaths were drawn in large-scale acts of violence committed overwhelmingly by US citizens with lawfully-owned weapons,

Although a few should not have been sold firearms despite failing background checks, a large proportion of wholesale killers hadn't broken a single law prior to visiting their collective slaughter upon our innocent brothers and sisters.

So what the hell can we do about this? I think most of us, liberal and conservative alike, believe that mental health screening is the key to keeping guns out of the hands of the psychopathic, but after that, our squads quickly diverge.

The Republican right, already consumed in a state of seething indignation over Obamacare and increased government "handouts," would hardly endorse further spending for a concept as abstract as preventative mental health care. Ronald Reagan, standard-bearer for all that is Right, enacted the Brady Bill while simultaneously slashing funding and casting millions of schizophrenic government dependents to lives of homelessness.

The cons may maintain that the private sector can handle this burden, that faith-based organizations can pick up the slack, but how's that been working out?

Those of the libertarian persuasion, already highly distrustful of an executive branch hell-bent on taking their guns, would just as soon allow the feds to pay a visit to a mentally ill family member as they would go to a concert where Jane Fonda opens for the Dixie Chicks.

In light of these belief systems, where does that leave us? Same place as usual—gun control. During Barack Obama's first term, 91% more background checks were performed than in George Bush's initial four years, and over 65 million Americans have purchased firearms during the Obama administration. I'd say we're pretty well stocked at this point, wouldn't you?

For those friends among us thinking that the Apocalypse may very well happen a week from Tuesday, I'm willing to bet they've got enough ammo to set them up until then and a thousand Tuesdays into the future.

So since you people already have yours and then some, how about we think outside the box a little? Why not impose a moratorium on gun sales, or at the very least on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? Simultaneously, how about cracking down the illegal weapons trade while we're at it? Last I checked, it's not too easy to order yourself an RPG launcher, and there's a reason for that. It's time to treat guns like the weapons of mass destruction they really are.

Contrary to what you may believe after reading this, I'm not stupid. Guns are as American as cookie dough and Maxwell House, and we're a country built largely from the business end of a rifle. The Second Amendment secured the ability of a ragtag militia from rural Massachusetts to hide in the bushes and pick off all those redcoats dumb enough to march down the middle of the road. Later, the fastest and easiest way for a lawless West to be settled was through a lot of shooting and threatening to shoot.

But wake up. Times have changed, if you haven't noticed. How many freaking guns do you need, people? I guess in America, the answer is more.

Always more.

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